A number of writers here at Coolsmartphone Towers predominantly use a Chromebook as our main devices. I have been using an Asus Chromebook flip since its release a number of years ago, and it still runs as fast today as it did the day I bought it. This is one of the main advantages of Chrome OS.
As Chromebooks have increased in popularity, device specs have gotten higher and higher, with the pinnacle being Google’s own Pixelbook, a device that I would dearly love to own but I can’t justify the £1000 price tag.
Well for a couple of months now, I have had my eye on the HP X2 2-in-1 Chromebook. It’s a device which as has the same screen panel as the Pixelbook, high specification internals, and a detachable screen, thus giving you a 12.3 inch Chrome OS tablet. The X2 Chromebook also has full stylus input and includes the HP stylus in the price. So, when a holiday to the US approached, I duly pre-ordered one from Best Buy and collected once there, as it was not yet available here in the UK.
- Processor: Intel Core m3-7Y30
- RAM: 4GB
- Storage: 32GB
- Ports: Two USB-C, Micro-SD, headphone jack
- Display: 12.3-inch, 2400 x 1600 pixel
- Battery: 48 Wh, rated for 10.5 hours
- Dimensions: 11.5 x 8.32 x 0.33 inches
- Weight: 3.07 lbs with keyboard; tablet 1.62 lbs
- Keyboard (not backlit) and stylus included
- B&O Play tuned speakers
- Gorgeous screen
- Stereo front facing speakers
- Pressure sensitive pen input
- Lightweight in tablet mode
- 2-in-1 design
- Lightning fast
- Nice keyboard to use
- Good responsive trackpad
- Battery life
- 45 Watt fast charger
- USB Type C port on both sides (charge/data/display out)
- Currently not available in the UK, hence US plug
- Heavy when in laptop mode with the keyboard attached
- No backlit keyboard
- Durability of faux keyboard
- A little top heavy when used on lap
- Does get quite warm when charging (not a problem as not on lap)
- Screen is a bit of a fingerprint magnet
- Only USB Type C ports, so dongles are required
What’s In The Box:
Unlike competing devices like the Surface Pro and the iPad Pro, the Chromebook X2 includes everything you need in the box. The keyboard is attached to the screen when you remove it from the box, and the pen is packed in its own plastic packaging. Unscrew the battery housing for the pen, pop in the included AAAA battery, and start using the pen — no pairing required.
Also included is a 45-watt USB-C charger. Although the X2 will charge from any USB charger or power bank, I found that some with only provide a ” Low Power” charge, meaning the battery won’t charge while the device is being used. The included 45-watt charger, on the other hand, means it can charge the device from completely drained to full in about an hour and a half, after I had purchased a UK plug adapter that is.
The first thing I have to mention is the display. The X2 has the exact same panel that’s been used in the Samsung Chromebook Plus and Pro and the Google Pixelbook which has a resolution of 2400 x 1600 PPI, and 3:2 aspect ratio.
I’m just going to come right out and say it, this display is gorgeous. I don’t have the best eyesight, but everyone I have shown this display to struggled to make out any pixels, images are accurate and vibrant.
Surrounding this display is a nice-sized bezel — not as large as the one on the Pixelbook, but still enough to comfortably hold the tablet portion without accidentally touching the screen. I found the touch response excellent, with no discernible delay between touching the screen and an action occurring. Housed in the top bezel is an HP Wide Vision 5 MP Camera and HP IR Camera with integrated dual array digital microphone. Hidden within this bezel, one either side of the screen are B&O Play tuned speakers, which are loud and provide excellent sound quality.
Round the side of the display is the aluminium chassis of the device. On the left side is a USB Type-C port, a Micro-SD card slot (I currently have expanded the storage to 128 GB, while I eagerly awaiting the OS update that will allow installed Android apps to access this storage). Along the top of the display is the power/standby button, and on the right is a 3.5mm headphone jack, the volume up/down controls and the second USB Type-C port.
The back of the device is coated with white ceramic and houses a 13 MP camera and a centred HP logo, overall giving the tablet portion of the set up a real premium feel in the hand. Other reviewers have commented that the white coating has picked up some colouring from bags and backpacks but as yet mine has stayed blemish free.
The keyboard is black on the bottom, and blue on the top with a faux leather texture, which again feels excellent to the touch. My only concern is the longevity of this finish. The included Stylus (or HP Active Pen) sits in a loop to the right side of the keyboard and does feel a bit flimsy, feeling as if it may well rip if not looked after.
If you have ever used a Chromebook before, the X2 experience is exactly the same, with the same ease of setup.
Log into the device with your Google credentials and there you go; everything is just how you have left it. Another advantage of the Chrome OS is that I can log into one of the other writer’s Chromebooks and hey-presto, its the same setup as I have. Even if you’ve never used a Chromebook, you’ll soon be able to pick up and use this without any issues.
The device does feel a bit top heavy which can be expected really, as all the components are held within the screen section. That said, it can easily be used on your lap, as the hinge is strong enough to hold the screen upright.
The hinge gives about 120-degrees of travel so if you want the screen flat on a table, you’ll need to detach the screen. This is done by giving a strong pull to release the magnetic hold to the keyboard. All the usual combinations can be achieved as well: “tent mode”, presentation mode” and the keyboard can be left in place for “tablet mode”. But unlike other 2-in-1 devices, the keys are hidden and not felt on the back, which is one common annoyance of 2-in-1 style of devices.
One thing I did notice is that when detached, the screen portion of the set up is very lightweight, and its a pleasure to hold and consume media, and read on without much muscle strain. But that means that the keyboard section is quite heavy, and considering it doesn’t hold any battery etc, it must be weighted to give the package its overall balance. Thus it makes the overall package feel quite heavy.
That being said, the keyboard on the X2 uses the same layout as every other Chromebook, so previous Chromebook users will feel completely at home using it. I found the keys well spaced, with a good travel and clicky feedback. I am by no means a speed typer but I found this keyboard as good as any other I’ve used. The trackpad is large enough to navigate around a page or app easily, and to use Chrome’s navigation gestures. It has a reassuring click when pressed.
The keyboard connects to the tablet section using POGO pins, so no need to worry about pairing or interference from a Bluetooth connection. HP initially said it would have a backlit keyboard, but it doesn’t. As familiar as I am with the Chrome OS keyboard layout, I still need to look down at the keys sometimes. The lack of a backlit keyboard is a real negative for the X2, especially considering its price. Similarly priced devices like the Asus C302 and the Samsung Chromebook Pro, for example, offer a backlit keyboard.
The Active Pen uses Wacom AES technology, and is therefore pressure sensitive. Also included are a number of pen tips, one which is labelled to give the feel of pen on paper, which it really did.
I thought that I wouldn’t really use the pen as an input device, but I have to say this: It’s constantly in my hand, and I use it all the time to select, swipe, and annotate on the screen. This is a good thing really, as I find that the screen is a bit of a fingerprint magnet.
The X2 is the first Chromebook with a 7th-generation Intel Core m3 processor, meaning this thing really flies.
The newer generation processors are a bit more battery efficient than previous ones, and that reflected in my use. I could comfortably get 10 to 12 hours of use from the Chromebook X2, with five or six tabs open, browsing web pages and typing documents in Google Docs, on about 75% screen brightness.
Watching video nets me about the same life, while the battery seems to last forever when reading books and magazines.
The camera interface on Chromebooks has improved a bit over the last year. It has added the option for video recording and the ability to switch between front and rear cameras, but I don’t think I will be taking many photos with the X2. I would probably use the front-facing camera for video calls etc.
As I said at the start of this review, I had been eying up the X2 for a while, as it wasn’t available here in the UK. The price listed in the USA was $599 (£466) but it has suddenly appeared on the John Lewis website, priced at £799 (which is a bit of a mark up). But some eagle-eyed people have spotted a landing page on the Google Chromebook site where the X2 is retailing for £599, which is more in line with the 1 dollar = 1 pound exchange rate we seem to get for technology these days.
I’m OK with the 32GB of internal storage on the X2. I can see this being a stumbling block for others. At the moment Android apps can’t take advantage of Micro-SD cards (but hopefully this will come along with an OS update), so this low amount of storage will be limiting for those that want to download Netflix shows offline, or download large Android games.
Some people have wished there was a cellular 4G/LTE connected version of this device, but I’m ok tethering from my phone’s internet connection. I suppose having the option for integrated cellular 4G/LTE means users could just open the device and get to work rather than wait to connect to their phone or connect to unsafe public Wi-Fi points. It’s just not a dealbreaker for me.
If you’re a Chrome OS user there are a number of 2-in-1 choices – the new Samsung Acer Chromebooks, or get more power and storage with the Pixelbook. There aren’t many other detachables as yet, but I absolutely love the X2. It is now my one portable device: I have a full keyboard, a full desktop browser, and even pen input for productivity. I can then remove the keyboard and read a mag or watch a bit of Netflix.
This is one of the more expensive Chromebooks out there (especially if you buy it from John Lewis!). I think it’s more for people used to Chrome OS and want to have a higher specced device. If this is the market you’re shopping in though, the X2 is certainly a device that should be on your radar.